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View Full Version : Harmony Uke ID and questions



mellotron
03-22-2012, 02:27 PM
Hi, folks, first post here. I am fixing up an old Harmony Uke for a family member.35376353773537835379
Does anyone know an approximate year? Since it so closely matches my Magnatone Varsity amp's grill cloth, I'm guessing 1940s or early '50s.

It has (three) steel strings on it, but I want to know what it should have on it. The strings have dug into the wooden bridge saddle. Would they have been steel or nylon? Would the top string be a higher pitch/light gauge than the next string?

The action is quite high, and the intonation is so bad that the 12th fret harmonic matches pretty close to the note at the 11th fret. (This might be common for these, but is not what I am used to with guitars!)

The tuning pegs are tapered wooden tuners like a violin.

Thanks!

Hippie Dribble
03-22-2012, 03:18 PM
hi mellotron and welcome to the forums!

I owned the same model uke. I think that particular decal on the headstock and those pegs date it more in the 1920's-1930's.

First thing is, you gotta get rid of those steel strings QUICK!!! They were never built to be strung with those and it, if it hasn't already will warp the neck, loosen the bridge...too much tension. Get a set of nice soprano nylon strings or a set of worth flurocarbon strings. When you buy the strings the thicknesses and where they go in the nut slots will be explained to you on the packet. Standard tuning is GCEA for soprano bodied uke like the one you have pictured.

All the best with the restoration. Harmony built a stack of ukes like that with those stencilled designs and some are quite collectible. Cheers!

Hippie Dribble
03-22-2012, 03:19 PM
here's a link you might find interesting too...
http://www.catfish1952.com/harmony.html

mellotron
03-23-2012, 04:53 AM
Thanks for the detailed responses.

The steel strings are gone now. Maybe they were never really "at tension." Thankfully, the neck does not look bowed or angled up from parallel with the flat top. The bridge is not pulled up, but I can see where the top of the body is unglued from the sides, down at the bottom (opposite end from the headstock). Would a bit of carpenter's glue and some (well-protected) clamps be appropriate here?

This uke is not for sale but, for my sister-in-law's info, what would this be worth today? It was her dad's so has much sentimental value. I had no idea it could be 80+ years old. Other than the fingernail gouges in the fretboard (a sign it was well played!), it is in really good shape. It is also in a blue "cardboard" case with only a few stray threads sticking out here and there.

Her dad was a guitar player, too, and I suspect he has a '50s Les Paul under the bed. Still trying to get more information on that!

Thanks again

RyanMFT
03-23-2012, 06:11 AM
I agree with Eugene on the date for this ukulele.

They were playable, but not he best sounding ukuleles. It has much more sentimental value than cash value. As Eugene said, they made a ton of these, and the most common vintage ukulele out there are Harmony ukuleles. Value is in the $80 - 100 range.

I think a clean glue and clamp job would be fine, especially if you have some experience working with instruments. It would be overkill to use hide glue and all that IMHO. Some Titebond glue and a gentle clamp is all it should take.

If the peg tuners are a little difficult, sometimes they need a bit of a tune up. If they slip, and the surface of the peg is very smooth, you can rough it up a bit with a tiny bit of sanding, just to create a bit more friction. Also, just push them deeper into the headstock as they are tapered and will hold better when pushed in.

mellotron
03-23-2012, 06:52 AM
Thanks for the tip on the light sanding on the tuners; I will add that to my list. I was already pushing them in further to get them to stay.

mellotron
03-31-2012, 12:57 PM
I am done gluing, cleaning and stringing the ole uke.

35738

Down where the lower strap button would be, if there were one (is this the "tail"?), I had to glue the top and bottom to the sides, then I had to glue the left and right sides to get them to align to the contour of the top and back. It is not perfect but is oh so much better.

Because someone somewhere along the way strung it with steel strings, in a tenor guitar setup, I had to shuffle the tuning pegs around to get the width of the open slots to match the gauge of the new strings.

I put on a set of Aquila Nylgut strings and tuned it up. (My dog has not had fleas for 45 years!) You were not kidding when you advised me that they stretch a LOT more than guitar strings. Good call.

I started out on a soprano uke when I was a kid (in the mid 1960s). The first song I figured out on my own was Sunny by Bobby Hebb. Just listened to it and it's bringing back lots of memories.

Thanks to Ryan and Eugene for your help. Much appreciated!

Hippie Dribble
03-31-2012, 01:06 PM
it's come up great mellotron, well done! Would like to see some more pics or even get a taste for how it sounds. Admittedly, mine never sounded that good; the intonation was off and the action too high. But those aquila strings should bring it to life. Hope you get lots of joy out of her and really rekindle your passion for the instrument. Blessings :)

RyanMFT
03-31-2012, 01:07 PM
So glad your Harmony is back up and making music! Glad to help a bit!

mellotron
03-31-2012, 01:17 PM
Thanks, guys. I have it for a couple weeks until my sister-in-law comes to town, at which time she will take it to its proper home.

Think I'll write a letter to her dad (the original owner) and see if I can get some info on his electric guitar...

WhenDogsSing
03-31-2012, 01:20 PM
Her dad was a guitar player, too, and I suspect he has a '50s Les Paul under the bed. Still trying to get more information on that!

Thanks again

If that Les Paul is a '57 through '59/'60 year model, someone could retire on its value...!!!